The story of a girl who “didn’t make the cheerleading team”.

The opening shot zooms in on Rodriguez with her head down; slowly, she raises her head, and stares into the camera with ferocious intensity. If this renders the rest of the film largely redundant, it’s not really anyone’s fault. In Michelle Rodriguez, the makers have the perfect person to play Diana, a pissed-off, troubled/troublesome) teen, who finds that violence does solve problems after all. Okay, that’s not perhaps the message the authors intended, but when Diana finally lays into her father, it certainly seems that way.

However, that’s typical of the honesty the film shows: uplifting, without sugar-coating the harshness of life or the toughness of training. Though it’s hard to remember a time when Rodriguez’ stare wasn’t a cliche (see S.W.A.T.), the rawness of her emotion shines out, and getting someone with little screen experience turns out brilliantly in the end, even if it could have backfired badly, and completely sunk the picture. Rodriguez certainly puts the fear of God in me, that’s for sure. While the rest of the cast are much lower-key, and barely memorable, they do their jobs adequately, in roles that are little more than cliches e.g. ex-boxer turned trainer.

However, by making Diana’s boyfriend a boxer too, it adds a significant spark, even if the “Gender Blind” boxing tournament that pits them against each other for the climax, is contrived, ludicrous, and can be found nowhere in the real world, AFAIK. Yet the film brings you along so well, that it’s easy to take that final step, which provides more than adequate closure for Diana – if not necessarily anyone else.

Dir: Karyn Kusama
Star: Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas